Resume Writing, Career Advice and Job Search blog from ResumeWriting.com.
I wanted to close out this week with a long post.
For some time, there’s been quite a bit of debate about whether or not job-hopping is the new normal. The general consensus amongst the mainstream of job search and career advice gurus is that this is a bad thing. Job hopping can hurt your career, the conventional wisdom says. Loyalty is still rewarded. Seniority and career stability still have their place, the argument goes. (Even in a modern environment when employers have absolutely no outdated ideas of loyalty toward their employees and companies can grow and become global titans, only to shrink and become irrelevant, all in the space of 10 years? Where’s the stability there? But I digress…)
I want to address the current job hopping trend from what might be a controversial thesis:
Job Hopping is not only common, it’s almost a requirement for some people these days.
I don’t want to go too far into the questions about whether or not this is a mainstream trend, or whether this is a good or a bad thing overall for the broader job market. In fact, I’m not really particularly interested in how common this trend even is.
But I want to address job hopping from the perspective of professionals for whom job hopping is a must when considering overall career development.
For Some, Job Hopping Is Not The “New Normal.” It’s The New Smart.
This post was prompted by touching base with some clients who I’ve worked with multiple times over the years. Once we work well with a client and successfully support them on a job search, they tend to look us up again when a new search comes around because we’re familiar with their career story.
Over the new year, I checked in with a client who is a software developer. He’s whip smart, ambitious and happily swimming in the high-end, Silicon Valley talent pools.
I came late to this party, and if I want to work on what is going on now in the world, I have to work with the people who are doing the new stuff.
When I first worked with him, about 5-6 years ago, he was fresh out of college and looking for entry-level posts with small, smart companies. He hopped around a bit, gathering more skill sets. And then about two years ago, he came back to me because he had a job offer at a very big tech firm. This was him making it, in a way. This is a company that is a tech leader, one of the stalwarts of the new economy. We worked together, and he successfully landed a fairly impressive leadership position. Impressive, especially for his age.
So, you can imagine my surprise when, last summer, after barely a year at that position, he came to me and said he wanted to try to jump ship. Why was this? Well, it seemed that the company he was at, while fabulously successful and an industry leader, was in the process of becoming, as he put it, “fat, contented, lazy and boring.”
He told me that the people he worked with, while talented, were not on the cutting edge. They were “the cutting edge, 5-6 years ago when they were disrupting their space and overturning their industry,” but he felt that now there was a bit of resting-on-their laurels going on.
I saved what he emailed me: “I have to move on,” he said. “I came late to this party, and if I want to work on what is going on now in the world, I have to work with the people who are doing the new stuff.”
In short, he felt he needed to job hop so that his career didn’t stagnate even before it began.
So, I helped him jump ship, and in fact, he landed him at a major startup tech company midway through last year. This is a company you might not have heard of yet, but believe me, you will. This will be the next multi-billion dollar IPO tech heavyweight in a few years time. They’re disrupting a major industry and they’re doing things that will change our world without a doubt.
When I touched base with him around new years, I wanted to see if he was happy with the move. He absolutely was. This is what he emailed me:
It’s not that the people here are smarter (though, they are) it’s also that they’re more ambitious. They only want to be be doing the new thing. It’s almost like XXX (his previous company) was a great place to be in the 2000s. But now that it’s the 2010s, YYY (his present company) is where I’d rather be at in order to be a part of this decade.
When Job Hopping Is Common, Staying In One Place Can Be Falling Behind
Now, I can hear you say, “Ok, Brian. Job hopping is smart in the tech world, but that’s a unique industry.”
But I don’t think it’s that unique anymore. Let me give you two more quick examples.
There’s a client I’ve worked with that is in Government/Politics in Washington, DC. Sort of a partisan mover and shaker. Over the past 5 years, I’ve helped him hop positions at least 4 times. The way he’s always explained it to me is something along the lines of: “This is how DC works. Elections happen every couple of years. Parties come to and fall from power. The entire makeup of this town can turn over every couple of years. You constantly have to keep moving to keep your career in line with landscape of this place.”
Another client I’ve worked with for over 12 years. He’s a 25-year PR veteran in the auto industry. When I first started working with him in the late 90s, he was knocking around various foreign auto companies. The surprise was when he came to me in, I think, 2008. It was right in the middle of the crashing economy and the auto bailouts. He said he needed me to help him land a job with one of the big three American automakers.
“Why?” I emailed. “Isn’t that the wrong move? Aren’t they dinosaurs about to go extinct? Shouldn’t you stay overseas?”
“Maybe,” he wrote back. “But if the bailout happens, the American automakers are going to be rejuvenated, and they’re going to be the exciting place to be for the next 15 years. The people they’re bringing in to save these guys are doing some really innovative stuff.”
Sure enough, he landed a job at a major American auto, and last time I checked with him, he’s super happy to be on the cutting edge again.
What all these stories have in common is that staying in place was not only a dumb thing for these guys’ careers, it was the ability to keep jumping lily pads that allowed them to keep their careers progressing in positive ways. Staying put was decidedly the wrong move.
Job hopping was the smart move.
The Creative Class Or The Modern Job Class?
Again, you might be tempted to make the argument to me that these aren’t typical jobs. Tech, politics, PR… these are more of what Richard Florida calls the creative class.
But I would argue that for modern workers, this is the job class you want to be in, because this is the class that has all the growth. The creative class is the job class of the present and the future.
Look at yesterday’s Payscale report on the industries seeing real wage growth in this economy.
I’d say a good half or more of those jobs are in dynamically changing industries. They’re modern. They’re young. They’re where the jobs are and the growth is too.
They’re what we’d call “good jobs” and if that is the sort of job you aspire to, then I’d argue that for you, job hopping IS the new normal.
After all, as Florida himself points out:
The average American changes jobs once every three years; those under the age of 30 change jobs once a year. (emphasis mine)
Maybe it is a youth thing. Maybe it is that for Gen X, Gen Y and younger, job hopping is something they expect to do.
But I would argue that it’s just as likely that this is what expected of a lot of workers now. Especially in specific industries. And especially in certain job markets. As my political example above points out, Washington DC is a town where job hopping is not only de rigueur, you could end up looking stuck if you stick around one place too long. I see it all the time amongst clients looking for finance jobs in Manhattan, or entertainment industry jobs in LA, or even higher education jobs internationally. Not hopping around signals a career cul-de-sac. The people who are on the cutting edge are flexible and mobile, always willing to go to where the action is.
This of course fits in with Florida’s creative class argument (no coincidence that, my examples making use of Manhattan, LA, International careers).
These are where the good jobs are now, and these are what is expected. The job market is more talent based than ever. The recession has proven that.
Don’t get hung up on creative, though. It’s just as much about self preservation and being realistic about the modern economy. I could put you in touch with dozens of Pharma Sales professionals I’ve worked with over the last decade who have had to hop around jobs, trying desperately to stay ahead of the next round of layoffs, or restructurings, or division sales, or mergers or takeovers.
Why even expect to settle for decades in with one job, or one company or even one career path when your entire industry can be expected to completely remake itself over the course of just one decade?
Career Strategies For Job Hoppers
I really think that job hopping is the reality for a lot of jobs, and it’s probably a reality for a lot off the really good jobs.
So what are some job strategies for modern job hoppers? I don’t have a coherent step-by-step philosophy beyond embracing flexibility, but here are some thoughts, in no particular order:
First, determine if you’re in an place where job hopping is expected.
If staying one place too long can reflect poorly on you, it’s best to know it. Are you in an industry or a town where the social pressure says that the best and the brightest are always in demand and thus always moving around? Well, then, you should try to place yourself in league with the best and brightest. If you’re in a more traditional industry where loyalty and paying your dues is still a prized commodity, then stay put and put your nose to the grindstone.
Have some results before you hop. Maybe wait until you have a tangible accomplishment. Hopping around with empty job titles on your resume can look bad.
Honestly evaluate your industry or your career pool. If you feel like you’re one of those for whom job hopping is expected, then don’t be afraid to ignore the old sages that will tell you job hopping is bad.
Make sure your motives are pure.
Don’t job hop because you’re bored, or the job is too hard, or you don’t like the people you work with right now.
Do jump around for opportunities and for growth.
Hop around because it makes sense for your career to evolve, not change. There’s a big difference.
Also, don’t jump for the money alone. Jump because the upward progression of, and the overall evolution of your career demands it.
Having said that…
Here are good reasons to hop:
Hop to increase your skill set. Hop to work with the best and the brightest. Hop for a title upgrade. And yes a salary upgrade is obviously a decent reason to hop. Not the only reason, but a decent one.
Networking is the most important thing for job hoppers.
You can’t work with the best and the brightest if you don’t know who they are and where they are. Networking is the best way to find a new job for all sorts of job seekers. But job hoppers do it because they want to be on the cutting edge and skate to where the puck is going, not where it already is. You can’t do that if you’re not already part of the conversation.
Remember, you’re job hopping to stay relevant and vibrant. It’s the staying put that keeps you behind. So keep tabs with the up and comers, and keep opportunities open to work with them.
When to hop?
How long is too long to stay in one place? Is it 1 year? Is it 3 years? Is it 6 months? It’s probably really industry specific, so look around at other people you admire. How much are they moving around? If you find yourself in a job hop-happy industry, it’s very much a game of keeping up with the Joneses. So mimic the smartest Jones.
Have some results before you hop.
One thing I would caution against is hopping around with not much to show for it. I’m suggesting that it can be ok to leave a job after only a few months, but only for a very good reason. That next job better be an obvious move up, or it can still look bad on your resume. Maybe wait until you have a tangible accomplishment. Hopping around with empty job titles on your resume can look bad. If you’ve been in three different positions in the last three years, you’d better have something tangibly impressive to show for each one, or you will end up looking like a flighty hire.
Because, most importantly, you want to…
Show that you’re hopping out of passion and not out of restlessness.
The whole thesis of this piece is that job hopping can be ok, and positively a good idea in a lot of cases these days. But that’s only because in this modern job market where true talent is in demand, the hiring manger wants to think of you as being in that talented “class.” Job hop because it shows you’re on the cutting edge and current.
It’s not restlessness if you’re moving around because you’re moving forward. If you can project that image of you and your career, then job hopping can be a positive strategy for career development, no matter what anyone tells you.